Mountain Gorillas – What you need to know about them

COMMON NAME: Mountain Gorilla
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Gorilla beringei beringei
TYPE: Mammals
DIET: Omnivores
GROUP: Troop, band
SIZE: Standing height, 4 to 6 ft.
WEIGHT: 300 to 485 lbs. (136 to 220 Kgs)

Mountain gorillas are a sub specie of the eastern gorillas. Half of these apes survive in the Virunga ranges shared by Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo and the other half is in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable national park. Discovered in 1902, these primates have gone through years of habitat loss, insecurity, and wars but they still survive and numbers are increasing despite being thought to be extinct by the 20th century.

Mountain gorillas are endangered. In 2019 December, the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities- Uganda and the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration revealed that the population of gorillas had grown to over 1063, and of these over 550 are in Bwindi.

The Virunga ranges are famous because of the gorillas and the governments in the 3 countries are working hard to protect and conserve nature treasures and great apes.

Mountain gorillas and all gorillas are the largest of the primates but the mountain gorilla is larger than the other two races with a massive build, powerful muscle structure, large head, and low forehead, and long black fur. Adult males have a black- greyish black and adult males have a whitish-silver on the back and this has earned them the name Silverback and they are the Alpha male in a group/family.

As the name suggests mountain gorillas dwell and crib in forests high in the three countries from 2000m to 3400m. They also utilize bamboo thickets occasionally. They live in groups of 2 to a recorded maximum of 37 individuals and as said the group is always dominated by the adult male –Silverback. And the group can include several females and immature gorillas (so adorable) up to about the age of 8. Young ones can be born at any time of the year after 260 days of gestation and a single infant can weigh 2kgs at birth.

When they reach maturity, both males and females leave their birth groups and females join lone males (marriage) and males can remain alone until they attract females and have their groups. They can occupy 5 to 35km2 and usually, the females and juveniles make beds/nests in the tree and males bed down on the ground.

Mountain gorillas feed on wild herbs, bamboo, shrub, vines, and leaves.

Mountain gorillas have a 98% of their DNA similar to that of humans and their sensory organs are active and similar to those of humans. This makes them the second closest cousin of mankind after bonobos.

Gorillas can easily catch human diseases and this is why there is a lot of sensitivity when it comes to tracking experiences and there are health rules that have been put up to protect them. They include an 8m distance from these great apes, trackers with airborne diseases like flu are disallowed from tracking, you can’t smoke, eat or drink while in the presence of gorillas (but the excitement can’t even allow you), no littering and if you go for the as long or short call you bury your waste 30cm deep.

So after the highlight about them, you can plan your gorilla tracking safari for an encounter with these gentle giants.